Baby Shroomers and the Heroin Spike: 6 Surprising Trends in Americans’ Drug Use

A new national study found drug use among those aged 50 to 64 has roughly doubled in the last few years, as has the number of people using heroin. Here's why

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The most comprehensive study of who’s using what in the U.S. came out on Wednesday. Here are six noteworthy stats from the federal government’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 70,000 Americans.

The methamphetamine epidemic is waning. The number of meth users in 2012 fell to 440,000, down from 731,000 in 2006. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, which conducted the survey, attributed the drop to states restricting the sale of key ingredients, like pseudoephedrine, which is found in cold medicines such as Sudafed.

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But heroin use is exploding. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of Americans shooting up nearly doubled, from 373,000 to 669,000. According to Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, that estimate may be low. Many heroin users are incarcerated, homeless, or not in a place where surveys can find them.

With cities and states cracking down on “pill mills”—illegal sources for Oxycontin and other prescription opiates—addicts are looking to get their fix elsewhere. “The prescription opioids are an easy path,” Kleiman says. “Then once people are strung out, they’ll do lots of stuff that they wouldn’t have done before.”

Pot is only getting more popular. Marijuana has long been the most commonly used drug in America, but its fan base is reaching new highs. In 2012, 18.9 million people used marijuana–7.3% of the population–up from 14.5 million in 2007. The number of daily users, now 7.6 million Americans, is growing as well.

Some of that rise likely resulted from growing acceptance of the drug—20 states and Washington, D.C. allow medical use, and Colorado and Washington State recently legalized recreational toking. “It’s clear that people are more willing to use legal than illegal drugs,” says Keith Humphreys, a psychologist and behavioral sciences professor at Stanford who served as a policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The spirit of the ‘60s lives on. Here’s one statistic that will probably surprise people but shouldn’t: drug use among older people is way up. Last year, 7.2% of adults age 50 to 64 got high, up from 3.4 percent a decade ago. Among those aged 55 to 59, the drug use rate more than tripled, from 1.9% to 6.6%.

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But those increases are mostly attributable to Baby Boomers getting older. “This cohort, particularly those born after 1950, had much higher rates of illicit drug use as teenagers and young adults than older cohorts,” the survey explains. “This generational shift in drug use is still evident in the most recent data.”

One of your neighbors is probably a binge drinker. Last year, 52.1% of Americans, 135.5 million people, reported drinking alcohol. Nearly one quarter, about 60 million people, were binge drinkers, which the study classified as having five or more drinks in the same occasion on at least one day during the month before being surveyed.

Teens don’t think smoking is cool anymore. 70 million Americans used tobacco last year, but fewer teens are lighting up. Over the last decade, tobacco use among teenagers (12 to 17-year-olds) dropped by nearly half, from 15.2% to 8.6%.

They’re still experimenting with alcohol though. Of the 4.1 million people who reported having their first drink in 2012, more than 80 percent were under the age of 21. You can’t win them all.

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108 comments
marcdotcom
marcdotcom

Why is a spike in heroin use surprising? Doctors prescribe narcotics to millions yearly, narcotics are addictive, people become addicts. I use the term 'narcotics' to refer to opiate derived substances...oxycodone, morphine, heroin, methadone, etc.

RichyBocaz
RichyBocaz

you mean US Citizen's drug use...America is a continent not just one country.


BillyFerguson
BillyFerguson

Why would you put "shroom" in the title just for a pun when the article doesn't mention mushrooms at all?

RationalVoice
RationalVoice

1st, Cannabis is NOT the most used drug in America. Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and many other drugs are used far more. To be clear, cannabis is the most used ILLICIT drug in America, but it's also one of the safest -- safer that alcohol and tobacco by far, and even safer than caffeine. 

2nd, if your source is the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, then you're not getting all the facts. They have a vested interest in keeping the war against [some] drugs going, and produce lots of propaganda to support it.

3rd, as cannabis use increases, the use of other more harmful drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and prescription harmaceutical products decreases.

KennethWilliams
KennethWilliams

"Binge drinkers" were classified as having five or more drinks in the same occasion on at least one day during the month before being surveyed......So, if you drank five beers at your 30th birthday party last month, you can be labeled a binge drinker. I call that BS.



mikeo2297
mikeo2297

The heroin epidemic has destroyed so many lives it's sickening. It's way worse than any statistics but it's not the type of thing people like to admit to or for their family to even accept as reality.  I wonder if the number of opiates prescribed by Doctors has a direct correlation. I'd bet yes.

MassiveMarbles
MassiveMarbles

This only proves that many people no longer believe our current state of affairs is worthy of consciousness. 

MaryAnn01
MaryAnn01

It's probably not really a big increase in use of MJ. People are just more willing to admit it. And Boomers are retiring and emptying the nest and are able to indulge without having to worry about work drug tests and family finding out. For the first time ever, I answered yes on one of those doctor forms.

sunflower413
sunflower413

Almost half (7.6 mil) of Americans that used marijuana within the last year (18.9) are daily users? 

RichardCranium1
RichardCranium1

The assertion in the article that 'Marijuana has long been the most commonly used drug in America' is FALSE and is NOT supported by the survey.

By far the most commonly used (recreational) drug in America is ALCOHOL.

If you want to say most common used ILLICIT drug, then SAY most common used illicit drug. 

We know you aren't talking about prescribed medicine, or over the counter analgesics - that you are referring to "recreational" drug can be legitimately assumed - that is what the survey is reporting on. But both alcohol and marijuana are recreational drugs and the survey reports on both. The only difference is that one is legal (and kills hundreds/thousands per year) and one is mostly illegal (and has never killed anyone in the history of the planet).

It is time to stop simplistically naming marijuana as the most common recreational drug when it isn't - by anyone's definition and by any measure.

 

 


paranoidjones
paranoidjones

Just as the survey feels heroin users may be difficult to find, isn't it also possible that legalization has made pot use more open, not just more prevalent?

pcowdin
pcowdin

If the DEA would concentrate their efforts on heroin, meth and prescription drug abuse rather than spending millions on marijuana eradication and raiding dispensaries, no one would suffer but drug police, prison owners, dealers and cartels.

faturism
faturism

There will always be stupid  losers who do drugs and by the way, legalizing them doesn't change the fact that they are still drugs.

marijman
marijman

worst drug of all, religion, at least pot is real

MichaelL.WallaceJr.
MichaelL.WallaceJr.

The Absence of Marijuana from the Human Diet due to Prohibition has brought about the Many Horrific Disease & illnesses that We Face Today. It was well Known as the Most Effective Worldwide Cure all Before made illegal. It was made illegal to make Rich the people who run America Today & as a means of Genocide.

Ann_Coultergeist
Ann_Coultergeist

I feel like such an old fuddy-duddy clutching my bottle of booze, and nothing else. What happened to those carefree days of youth when I'd gulp down my ecstacy and Gatorade and dance to exhaustion to the grinding thump of house music with dozens of total strangers?

jglugla@mail.com
jglugla@mail.com

You would think that people would be so happy in the greatest country in the world, that they wouldn't need to use drugs. 

teralex42
teralex42

Being a Boomer, I can say, right!  But many of us who don't smoke have found alternatives ways of consuming our cannabis.  As more people retire and relax ,I  predict more usage.  Also it's being increasingly used for medical reasons.

underweed
underweed

Did i miss the part about shrooms?


TenaciousJim
TenaciousJim

Teen use of e-cigarettes has more than doubled from 2011 to 2012 according to newly released CDC data.


Whatanotion
Whatanotion

High fructose corn syrup.  The drug that brought down the USA.  Big Farma?

njennings195
njennings195

I wish there were baby SHROOMERS think of how enlightened the world would be

cleft5
cleft5

@KennethWilliams 


It is BS. Five drinks in a month is not binging. Its called kicking back before dinner.

raffishtenant
raffishtenant

@mikeo2297 Probably so, and yes, the stigma does hinder the collection of accurate statistics, not to mention a reality-based approach to the problem.  For the record, if I were told, "You have no choice in the matter: one of your loved ones is going to become addicted to either pure heroin or alcohol. You can work with them to help them kick the habit, but that's where we start," I would choose the former in a heartbeat. Consider that heroin's and alcohol's addictiveness are strikingly similar with respect to intoxication, reinforcement, tolerance, and withdrawal, but only alcohol in excess causes damage most of our major organs.  Prohibition complicates matters, as it always does, in heroin's case by resulting in wildly varying purity levels (which encourages overdose) and needle sharing (which encourages the spread of Hep C).

glennra3
glennra3

@MaryAnn01 

I can't trust that information I give to my doctor stays only with my doctor.

RationalVoice
RationalVoice

@sunflower413 Yes -- so? Nearly 100% of tobacco users are daily users. Cannabis is a MUCH smarter choice than tobacco, for the individual, and society.

Also -- one has to question those numbers overall. We're talking about an illicit product that some people are still scared to talk openly about in regard to their personal use. 

harborfish
harborfish

@faturism Marijuana requires no processing like alcohol or other drugs it is a natural plant, god given.  It is not a drug it is a gift.

harborfish
harborfish

@Ann_Coultergeist ecstacy is a mixture of man made chemicals.  That is very bad for you.  Booze is also a processed substance.  Marijuana is given by God.  Grow it light it and feel peace.

whymsicals29
whymsicals29

@jglugla@mail.com Sarcasm goes right over the heads of most of the people here. They're here to argue and you can't argue with sarcasm.

harborfish
harborfish

@jglugla@mail.com When the greatest country in the world makes you work more hours for hardly any money, the need to smoke a fatty to fall asleep in peace is a Godsend.  What is so great about the USA?

raffishtenant
raffishtenant

@underweed You and I both. A cynical reader might conclude that the "baby shroomers" bit was pure, deceptive click-bait—hey, it got ME here—especially since the SAMHSA report itself mentions "psilocybin" and "mushrooms" exactly once, then proceeds to group them under "hallucinogens" (and goes on to indicate that all hallucinogens combined represent a minuscule percentage of youth drug use).

KennethWilliams
KennethWilliams

@Whatanotion The HFCS scare is absolute BS. Your body processes it exactly the same way it does plain table sugar (sucrose).

vidanuevatx
vidanuevatx

@cleft5 @KennethWilliams I think you misunderstood the article. It considers 5 drinks in one occasion on one day to be binge drinking. It then asks whether the person did that during the previous month. Three drinks at one event is considered enough to put a 160-lb person over the legal limit for driving. Wouldn't your consider five to be a lot?

RichardCranium1
RichardCranium1

@sunflower413 @RichardCranium1  

touche! 

However, I think I'd call caffeine a 'dietary supplement' 8-). The reported survey doesn't report on caffeine use, presumably because they didn't consider it a recreational drug either. I guess.

ADeaconBlue
ADeaconBlue

@whymsicals29 @jglugla@mail.com hm..not sure arguing is what they are here for...they are here to have thier opinions heard...but not to have a discourse...to argue means defend ones point and be open to acceptance of another view if its presented properly...mostly this is just trolling...


raffishtenant
raffishtenant

@ffoulkes @harborfish @faturismEvery substance that has any effect on the body is processed by it, by definition.  He meant processing in the sense of how it's prepared in the marketplace for consumption, not how it's consumed.